My robes whipped behind me as I ran with my broom in hand. The lawn heading up to Hogwarts castle was still dewy from the morning and my toes began to go numb with the cold of the water soaking through my shoes. I could hear their footsteps and vulgar remarks getting closer behind me, and I begged my legs to pump faster up toward the castle, as if being inside would save me from the torment of Draco Malfoy and the other Slytherin boys. I was a Slytherin myself, harboring intelligence and ambition among my shy exterior, but the crest I wore upon my robes shamed me to no end. Although Slytherin is a very noble house, and many a great witch and wizard made up its rich heritage and tradition, I could not get past the filth and prejudice that lied within the dungeons of Hogwarts in that common room those five years I spent reading in the corner and overhearing private conversation.
I made it a talent to not be noticed as I sat quietly beneath the green and silver tapestry on the far wall of the common room. I hid behind a different book each afternoon, peering over the top to spy on whoever came in and sat on the couches, complaining about the Gryffindors, or plotting their next bout of mischief. Most of the time I went unseen, and I regretted hearing some of the things I heard as I was ever invisible.
"Marilyn came out on the Quidditch pitch today, that insolent , little troll. She's no better on a broom than she is on her feet," said Marcus Flint, captain of the Slytherin team, and king of the common room.
"Honestly, can she even get off the ground with that horrible excuse for a broom she's got?" Adrian Pucey said, scoffing as he plopped down on one of the chairs by the fireplace.
"You mean the horrible excuse for a brain she's got," Graham Montague chimed in. All three of them snorted as they propped their feet up on the table. I could feel my face getting hot.
"Pucey," Marcus Flint said, "aren't you in potions class with her?"
Adrian Pucey gave a haughty chuckle. "Yeah, and you should have seen it! She was nearly done brewing her antidote when her entire cauldron blew up! It was a bloody mess!" My eyes started to tear as I noticed I still had goo in my hair from that mishap in class. I had no idea what had happened to make such an explosion. "Not to mention, that extra bit of lacewings flies and unicorn horn I chucked in while she wasn't looking really made that potion 'pop,' if you know what I mean!" They all started laughing uncontrollably.
I quickly wiped a tear from my cheek in anger. I slipped my hand into my robes and slowly took out my wand. I peeked out from my book, Quidditch through the Ages, and flicked my wrist as I silently muttered, "Slugulus Eructo." Immediately, Adrian Pucey was heaving on the floor as big, greasy slugs slipped out of his crooked mouth, making wet plopping sounds as they fell onto the green rug. Marcus and Graham whipped around just as I was headed up the staircase to the girls' dormitories.
"You filthy dung beetle!" Marcus yelled as he jumped over the back of the couch and ran up the stairs after me, Graham right on his heels. I reached the top of the stairs and without even looking over my shoulder, I flicked my wrist again. "Glisseo." The stairs disappeared and they boys shrieked as they plummeted back down into the common room. I wiped another unwanted tear from my face as I shut the door behind me.
I reached the castle just as my knees gave out. It was a Saturday morning, and nobody was about the castle except for me and my three pursuers hot on my heels. I begged my legs to carry me just a little bit farther, but to no avail. Before I knew it, I was being violently picked up off the floor and shoved forward.
"Hello, Horseface," said Draco, "fancy meeting you here!" His bony fingers dug into my flesh as he ushered me down the empty corridor.
"Fancy meeting you here too, Draco," I said calmly, trying hard not to sound shaken. "I'm surprised you're not with daddy, trying your damnedest to persuade him you're a worthy son." Draco's grip tightened. "Where is daddy dearest anyway, Draco? Shopping for a new family?" I saw his eyes burn red. It was no secret that Lucius Malfoy was unfaithful to his wife, and had been previously spotted with a tall, red-haired woman with a pointed nose. Definitely not Narcissa Malfoy.
"You shut up about my father!" He roared as he practically snorted fire. I shut my mouth, complete now that I had struck a weak spot. I smirked until I saw the broom closet toward the end of the corridor. "I say we show this ungrateful wench a lesson, boys." They shoved me into the closet and I heard Draco whisper 'Colloportus' after shutting the door, sealing me inside with the torturous brutes.
"You wait until Professor Snape hears about this, Malfoy. He'll have you hanging by your toes in his office," I said, my bottom lip quivering. Draco laughed.
"Snape! He doesn't give a damn about you, Horseface. Nobody in this bloody castle does," Draco said as he whipped his wand out of his robes. At first, I had no idea what was going on. After Draco had stunned me, I only felt slashes over my body, and I could feel blood trickling into my eyes. Then I heard my broom snap in half. My lip started to swell as footsteps were approaching.
"Draco, let's get out of here. I think that's McGonagall!" Goyle cried, as he whispered an incantation and a blanket of invisibility fell over them. Draco waved his wand and the door unlocked. He gave me one last kick as they exited the torture chamber of a broom closet. I couldn't move a single muscle, my body felt like a rock, no doubt the body-bind curse. I tasted salt as tears trickled down my cheek and into my mouth. 'I hate this place,' I thought to myself. I wish I could have been able to close my eyes, escape to a world inside my head behind my eyelids, instead of having to stare blankly at the dusty, cobwebbed corner of the closet. The footsteps reached the crack in the closet door and it flew open, shedding light on my dirty, tear-stricken face.
"Oh, heavens!" I heard Professor McGonagall shriek as she knelt down beside me. "Rennervate," she said softly. I blinked my eyes, but found it hard to make myself sit up. I gave a small groan.
"I'm sorry, Professor," I said, not knowing what else to say. It came to me later that I probably should have told her 'thank you.' She pushed my hair out of my bloody face.
"My dear, what happened to you, Horsefeather?" She said sounding very concerned. I always admired this woman. She had such a fierce and strong personality, but she was still very gentle and kind.
I decided to lie. "It was Peeves." That was all I could come up with. After not hearing McGonagall say anything, I felt that she knew I was lying, but I didn't try to recant my story. She sighed as she helped me pick myself up off the ground. I could tell as I stood up that I had been badly bruised, especially my sides, and I'm sure my face did not look as pretty as it had before.
"Let's get you to the hospital wing," She said as she put her arm around me. We were halfway there when an enormous ruckus echoed through the corridor. There were screams coming from a few staircases up. A third-year Hufflepuff came running toward us.
"Professor! You've got to come help. Peeves has got Leanne hanging from a chandelier!" McGonagall looked torn. She knew, however, that a student falling from a chandelier would make for a much worse visit to the hospital wing than in my case, just a bloody face and bruised ego.
"Anthony, I'd like you to accompany Miss Horsefeather to the hospital wing. I will take care of Peeves," She said releasing me and heading up the stairs toward the screams. The Hufflepuff student looked anxious. I could tell he'd rather be witnessing the excitement than ushering a bloodied-up Slytherin to the hospital wing.
"You know what? I can take care of myself. I don't need to be 'accompanied,'" I said in quite a snide tone. After all, I was a Slytherin, and who would expect anything less? Plus, I knew the snottier I sounded, the less likely this Hufflepuff was to walk me down to the other end of the castle. He just stared at me. "Well?" I said, making a shooing gesture. He turned and ran back up the stairs to follow McGonagall. I really had no intention of visiting the hospital wing.
It was still early on that Saturday morning, and as I passed the Great Hall, many students were clumped together at their tables, hovering over issues of the Daily Prophet and stuffing as many spoonfuls of egg in their mouths as possible. I had no appetite whatsoever, and even if I had, I would not subject myself to the stares that would follow me through the Hall as I sat down at the Slytherin table. I also spotted Draco Malfoy sitting at the far end, and I'd be damned if I set foot within one hundred feet of that daft scoundrel. I needed to go somewhere that was my own, where nobody would ever find me, where I could just forget.
I hobbled up the staircases as they shifted. I did not have any clue where my feet were taking me, as I climbed farther and farther away from the Slytherin dungeons. I reached the seventh floor when my calves started to burn from ascending so many stairs. I turned to the left as an interesting tapestry caught my eye. It was very old, and depicted a whimsical seen of trolls in tutus. Though it made a small smile crease my cheeks, my thoughts still lingered on one thing. 'I want to be somewhere else. I want to be someone else.' My vision became blurred as warm tears rose in my eyes, but then I heard a sound behind me. It was as if something was conjuring itself, like vines climbing up a wall. I turned around and saw a small door, no different than the door of the broom closet down on the first floor, but something jerked at my navel to open it, like there was so much more to this door than could be seen. I opened it slowly and was startled by the size of the room it opened into. I looked around cautiously to be sure nobody would follow me in. Could this be the place I had looked for? The place where nobody would ever find me?
Inside the room, there was an enormous wall that was lined with all sorts of books. There was also a king sized four poster bed with a silk canopy and white Egyptian linens, a mahogany piano with dazzling pearl keys, and a wardrobe made of polished oak that stood in the corner of the room. The wardrobe peaked my curiosity, but upon opening its wide doors, I was surprised to find a small bird fly out of it and flutter around the large room. Besides that, the wardrobe was completely empty. The bird flew over to the table beside the bed and started singing as it hopped around on top of a leather bound book. I picked up the book and ran my fingertips across the gold writing on its front. 'Tell me your story and I will give you a new one.' I placed the book on the bed and gave it sideways glance. "Not yet," I whispered and headed toward the enormous bookshelf. I hadn't known why this book had made me so nervous, but it took me until late that night to pick it up again, after I had powered through books about Quidditch, Xylomancy, and Animagi. I had always wanted to be an Animagus.
I took the book in my hands once more, fingering the gold letters that glittered on the front cover. "Alright. I'll tell you my story," I said, reaching for the quill on the desk that the small bird was sitting next too. It cooed at me as I dipped it into the shimmery black ink. I turned to the first page of the book and began to write down the life and times of Marilyn Horsefeather.